ACOs, a crucial link in animal care

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HINSDALE, N.H. — Rounding up feral cats is just another day on the job for Ashley Pinger, the animal control officer for the Hinsdale Police Department.

"I do a lot of different things," said Pinger.

Last week, she caught two feral cats on Canal Street in Havahart traps and transported them to the Monadnock Humane Society for evaluations. It turned out that both cats had feline leukemia, which is contagious.

After the results of the tests came in, the Hinsdale Police Department posted a public notice on its Facebook page.

Feline leukemia is one of the most common infectious diseases among cats, noted the post. It is a contagious virus that is spread through bodily fluids such as saliva, nasal secretions, semen, urine, feces and the milk of infected mothers. It is often spread through bite wounds and mutual grooming.

The symptoms of feline leukemia include loss of appetite, poor coat, pale mucous membranes, persistent fever and diarrhea.

Cats at greater risk for contracting this virus are those that are allowed outside, unvaccinated cats and cats not spayed or neutered," stated the public notice.

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Whenever Pinger catches a feral or stray cat, she delivers it to MHS where it's evaluated to determine if it's adoptable.

Emily Kerylow, operations manager at the Monadnock Humane Society, said her organization takes each and every cat that ACOs such as Pinger bring to them and evaluates them.

"We've come a long way with feral cats," said Kerylow. "The definition of non-adoptable is very small now. We are placing the majority of cats that come through our doors."

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Some cats, after a short amount of time in custody, are ready to go to a local family. Other cats, though they might not be willing to cuddle, make great companion pets for other cats or make great mousers, she said. And then there's the Humane Society's "barn program," for cats that might not be suitable for regular homes, but are perfect for "working" in a wide variety of buildings — such as a warehouse, a workshop, or a garage.

Kerylow said, whatever the personality of a cat, once it is placed on the adoption floor, it usually goes out the door in a matter of days.

Cats with feline leukemia such as those trapped by Pinger — and cats with feline immunodeficiency virus — also can live a long, happy life, said Kerylow. While the two diseases are not curable, they can be managed, she said, and the state of New Hampshire recently authorized adoptions of cats with either of those sicknesses.

Kerylow said the Monadnock Humane Society couldn't operate as efficiently as it does without ACOs such as Pinger.

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"She works really hard and knows animals well and she's also very good with the public," said Kerylow. "We serve 44 towns in this region and there is no way a single organization could handle it without ACOs like Pinger."

Pinger, who is also a veterinarian technician, spends between 20 and 25 hours working for the town of Hinsdale. This time of the year, said Pinger, more of her time is spent keeping track of Hinsdale's canine population.

While Hinsdale does have a leash law, folks are letting their dogs out without supervision or are taking them off the leash, especially in Pisgah State Park, where dogs are allowed but must remain on a leash.

"A lot of families go there," said Pinger. "And we don't need unleashed dogs running up into a child's face. Also, not all dogs are dog friendly."

Having your dog off leash is just "asking for trouble," said Pinger. "And that's when I get called out."

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or


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